Salt Lake City sets its post-2000 plans

Salt Lake City sets its post-2000 plans

Salt Lake City got a major head start on year 2000 work, CIO Ken Cowley says. By 1995 the city had converted to a client-server system that uses a four-digit year.

And when Y2K efforts and the Olympics are over, it gets to keep all the wiring

By Trudy Walsh

GCN Staff

Yes, there is life after the year 2000, Salt Lake City chief information officer Ken Cowley says.

Cowley has worked with computers in the public and private sectors for 25 years. He received a bachelor's degree in computer science from Brigham Young University and pursued graduate studies in the Senior Executive Program at Harvard University. Cowley spoke with GCN/State & Local about why the city is looking forward to 2000 and beyond.

COWLEY: We've set up the Information Management Services Division like a business. We're organized so that our revenues equal or exceed our expenditures. The bottom line is that we like to decentralize unless there's a really good reason to bring it under one roof, such as a standardization issue. And we like each city agency to handle its own PCs.

We're definitely in a customer-service provider relationship with the other city agencies. We even refer to them as 'our customers.' And they pay for their services.

Right now, we're working on three major programs. Our Internet and intranet site, at, is our No. 1 project. We're about to launch a redesigned site that will knock your socks off.

The next big project is our geographic information systems work. We find that about 80 percent of all our applications have a street address component, so GIS fits right in with just about everything we do.

The third project is what I'll call the corporate data repository, which is collecting and maintaining the huge amounts of information involved in running a large city. And that's really low-hanging fruit. You can get a lot of mileage in terms of efficiency just by collecting data and making it usable.

IT all over

Visitors to Salt Lake City would be really surprised by the number and quality of high-tech industries we have. Even if you go into a small retail operation here, you'd be surprised at the level of computer sophistication going on.

I'd say we're in the top 10 percent in the nation in terms of technology companies. Big companies like Novell Inc. and Iomega Corp. are nearby, plus Intel Corp. has offices here. Graduates of Brigham Young University's computer science department spawned a lot of computer companies.

We're trying to do actual business with citizens through electronic commerce. The first thing you see on our Web site is an image of City Hall. That's what we're aiming for'a 24-by-7 electronic city hall, where citizens can pay parking tickets over the Web anytime.

We're in sort of an unusual position with regard to the year 2000. We got a major head start on the problem in 1989, when we released our technology master plan.

In that plan, we indicated that we were going to move off mainframes and move into what we then called a PC network, which we call client-server now. By 1995 we had converted all city systems to a client-server system that used a four-digit year.

I think Sen. Robert Bennett (R-Utah) [chairman of the Senate Special Committee on the Year 2000 Technology Problem] set the atmosphere with his forward-thinking attitude on the year 2000. Also, Gov. Michael Leavitt has been a real technology advocate, as has our mayor, Deedee Corradini.

After that, we're looking forward to the 2002 Winter Olympics. The Olympics are bringing a tremendous boom in construction but also a lot of traffic problems. We're using technology in as many ways as we can to mitigate that. We have a new traffic signal system that's a cooperative effort between state, county and city. You'll be able to get on our Web site and see real-time digital images of what's happening at major intersections.

The Information Management Services Division is working with the Olympics organization, and we have a good relationship with them. We are doing a lot of coordinating between them and public safety agencies.

The Olympics group actually has their own technology department, which they are coordinating with US West Inc. [of Englewood, Colo.]. They are putting in the fiber-optic cable and wiring necessary for the Olympics. But when the games are over and the Olympic organization leaves, the wiring and other structures will stay. It'll be a great benefit for the people of Salt Lake City.


Software Engineering'Provides development, maintenance and analysis of application software and offers a technological vision.

Network Administration'Creates an efficient, safe and secure means of sharing computer information, both internal and external.

Telephone Administration'Fosters an efficient voice communications network and associated services such as voice mail and faxes.

Document Management Center'Offers document management services'copy scanning, document design, binding, printing'as well as mail administration.

Internet'Offers information, at, on city government, employment, maps and the Olympics in an optional Shockwave version from Macromedia Inc. of San Francisco.

Geographic information systems'Provides a digital profile of the Salt Lake City area down to the street address level.

Document management'Provides digital imaging and archiving of city records on several optical jukeboxes.


  • Records management: Look beyond the NARA mandates

    Pandemic tests electronic records management

    Between the rush enable more virtual collaboration, stalled digitization of archived records and managing records that reside in datasets, records management executives are sorting through new challenges.

  • boy learning at home (Travelpixs/

    Tucson’s community wireless bridges the digital divide

    The city built cell sites at government-owned facilities such as fire departments and libraries that were already connected to Tucson’s existing fiber backbone.

Stay Connected